SPCO, Jeremy Denk give Czech composer his due

02.27.15
Jeremy Denk
TwinCities Pioneer Press

  By Rob Hubbard

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The main attraction was pianist Jeremy Denk, the recently christened SPCO artistic partner who bookended the program with two J.S. Bach Keyboard Concertos, culminating in an exciting take on the First Concerto's finale. But this was a concert at which one of the world's most famous composers shared equal billing with -- and may have been upstaged by -- one considerably less lauded.

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Denk delivered them on a full-voiced grand piano to which he may have applied too much pedal for purists, often eschewing the kind of clipped, staccato fingerings and adherence to unvarying rhythm favored by many. But choosing raucousness over mathematical precision made for two lively interpretations, climaxing in an involving Adagio and cathartic closing movement to the Concerto No. 1, demonstrating the growing chemistry between Denk and the SPCO strings.

Five string players performed a transcription of a sad madrigal of lost love by Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo that fit with the evening's somewhat troubled tone, a mood at its most compelling during the Janacek Violin Sonata, when Copes' violin violently exploded into lovely, languid phrases from Denk's piano. Written as World War I was exploding across Europe, the sonata summoned up an aura of trepidation.

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